Baseball’s new interpretation of the transfer rule — aggressively calling no-catches and no-putouts when a fielder drops the ball transferring it from his glove to his throwing hand — has caused no small amount of controversy. Plays that used to be considered catches or putouts aren’t anymore and people have gotten cranky about it.
Be cranky no more, folks: Major League Baseball has announced that, starting tonight, umpires will revert to the old, common-sense approach of determining whether a catch is a catch as opposed to the strict interpretation they’ve been employing. Now, as it always used to be, a catch, a force out or a tag will be considered legal if a fielder has control of the ball in his glove, but drops the ball after opening his glove to transfer the ball to his throwing hard. Under the new interpretation at the start of the season, players had to actually get the ball to the throwing hand. Here’s how Major League Baseball is defining the rule per its press release:
The Committee has determined that a legal catch has occurred pursuant to OBR 2.00 (Definition of Terms, “Catch”), or a valid force out or tag has occurred pursuant to OBR 2.00 (Definition of Terms, “Tag”), if the fielder had complete control over the ball in his glove, but drops the ball after intentionally opening his glove to make the transfer to his throwing hand. There is no requirement that the fielder successfully remove the ball from his glove in order for it be ruled a catch. If the fielder drops the ball while attempting to remove it to make a throw, the Umpires should rule that the ball had been caught, provided that the fielder had secured it in his glove before attempting the transfer. The Umpires will continue to use their judgment as to whether the fielder had complete control over the ball before the transfer.
The impulse for the now-defunct strict interpretation was an innocent one — we have replay now, and if you are going to review a handful of plays where the transfer rule comes into play, you have to have a bright line standard — but implementation was a problem. Kudos to Major League Baseball for doing something it hasn’t always done: admitting to a problem and fixing it on the fly, rather than waiting for the next offseason.